A New Manual..? You must be joking!

 

A New Manual..? You must be joking!


Volume 5 Issue 8 News & Resources | September 2012

 

The future of engineering education seems to be getting more complex and confusing by the day. This may not be the case on the ground, but this is at least the feeling around academia or those involve with academia in Malaysia and most probably many other countries around the globe. The enforcement agencies or accrediting bodies have recently uploaded the most recent education manual for Malaysia. Just search for the term “EAC Manual 2012”, and I can assure you will reach the proper website and documents to be freely downloaded. The EAC Manual 2012 mirrors the ABET (just google/yahoo/Bing the term “ABET” if you’re not sure what this means) or Washington Accord (WA) philosophies or approaches in Engineering education.

The EAC manual 2012 gives clear guidelines for preparing, executing and assessing the engineering education, whilst also being touted as the major reference point for anybody intending to offer any engineering-related degree programmes. I have no doubt that the intentions of the relevant accreditation bodies are genuine, and they really intend to ensure proper and sound engineering programmes are offered – in Malaysia and those countries under the WA. The intentions are sound. The guidelines are also made crystal clear, but the tasks or deciphering and translating the guidelines into a workable engineering degree programmes need more than just assurance and nice words. Academic staffs running the undergraduate programmes are expected to appreciate the written and unwritten implications of the manual. This task, if I may comment, is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of patience and deductive capabilities before one can even start to make sense of the expectations, or actually instructions manual; akin like a new car or a new air-conditioning unit. One needs to read and understand the manual before thinking of even switching on the device. Failure is not an option! But, of course if you fail to adapt and adopt the guidelines, your stakeholders would be the last people you want to meet.

And, there is nowhere to run, hide or escape. Accreditation is NOW part and parcel of academic life. Everyone must understand and appreciate the implication of this fact. And, I really meant that everyone working to deliver any engineering-related degree programmes no longer have any excuses NOT to be aware of EAC Manual 2012. Of course, when holding an administrative post at the School or Faculty level, it is certainly becomes part of the job. You will be made known about it. For those who are lucky enough to be free from administrative roles, and presumably too engrossed in their teaching and research responsibilities, they too will not find any excuse anymore. Everyone will need to know the accreditation requirements and expectations. Why do I say this? It is because the new mode of teaching and learning no longer revolves around the teacher/lecturer/tutor, but moving towards student-centered learning. Hence, everyone is now involved in the student learning activities. The whole School/Faculty staffs are involved because the “Teaching and Learning” ecology is supposed to be supported by all, living and non-living (e.g. computers, buildings, books etc.) members. This LEARNING process no longer revolves around the academic staffs only. There is a saying which goes like this; “When a student failed, it is not because the teacher does not know how to teach, but because the student does not know how to learn” – interesting isn’t it? Joking aside, now, with the rise of formalized student-centered learning approach, we can now blame the students, in case they failed at the end . We, the lecturers, are not expected to teach, but we are EXPECTED to facilitate and guide the students’ learning processes. Facilitating SHOULD be easier than TEACHING. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

I have nothing against the EAC or EAC panel members. Some of them are themselves academicians, so they, surely, can/will appreciate the heavy tasks of preparing, executing and assessing the curriculums. To find the weaknesses of anything, I guess, should not be so difficult. But, the challenge for the EAC panel is to find the strengths of the given programmes. So many hours have gone into the curriculum for teaching and learning (Or should I say…for LEARNING). The EAC panels surely can appreciate these facts. Unfortunately, most likely that would not be their TERMS of REFERENCE (TOR). Presumably, they are supposed to find weaknesses and loop-holes. Hence, the cycle seems to continue forever. Again, I have nothing against EAC and EAC panel members. But, after going through many of these traumatic assessment exercises, it is just a matter of time before “All hells break loose”. I hope not, but one can never be so sure.

At the end of the day, EAC and ABET/WA manuals for curriculum planning, implementation and assessment should be a good thing for all of us. Even the accreditation visits are good for all. We always aspire to be better today compared to yesterday, and always hoping tomorrow will be much better than today. Yes, all these accreditations requirements sometimes make our life like hell, but it is no different having to take the thick and bitter medicine to cure our illness. Yes, please give advice, guide and assess us. We look forward for a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) to our curriculum and our academic ecology as a whole. Just remember, one fine day in the future, we might just be the ones visiting you, and we hope there’ll be no ill-feeling onwards. Ha ha.

The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else” – Barry Commoner


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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